Thursday, March 12, 2009

Contrasting Reactions to Exposés on TV

I'd like to examine something of interest to myself by way of contrast.

Although it is not critical to understanding the contrast I'm about to present, I feel some desire to frame what I'm about to say by pointing out that I'm formerly (quite recently) a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and that my religion is currently a blend between several things, still including several aspects of Mormonism.

Mormonism and Masonry are subjects that have often been treated together, by both friendly and "anti-" sources.  I want to look at a different aspect of comparison.  In recent years, Freemasonry has been featured in several television programs.  There has been at least one program that has purported to accurately depict the Master Mason Degree, presumably exposing the Masonic secrets held sacred to members of the Fraternity to the general public.

Next Wednesday, HBO plans to air a new episode of "Big Love" which depicts portions of the Mormon Temple Endowment, in an accurate re-creation of an Endowment Room and Celestial Room and with accurately depicted Temple Clothing being shown.  For those of you who don't know, "Big Love" is a show about a Fundamentalist Mormon family living in Utah and dealing with life among their Latter-day Saint neighbors.  And for those of you who aren't familiar with Mormonism, the depiction of the Temple ordinances and even the Temple clothing is considered taboo in mainstream Mormonism, that's why the producers of the show had to hire an ex-Mormon to help them put together the set and props.  The producers have promised that they've done their homework and will be doing an accurate portrayal.

A common thread here is that both shows may be characterized as being created by people who are unsympathetic towards the organization whose secret rituals they are "exposing."  Both programs are merely putting together information, the bulk of which has been in print since the mid-1800's, and as neither has been made by members of these organizations, the creators of these programs have apparently not broken any sacred obligations to come up with their respective footage.

So I've set the stage and shared what is in common, now for my contrast:  Masons have had mixed reactions to the exposé of the Master Mason Degree on Television, and I get the impression that, by and large, the Craft has welcomed the publicity created by such a program.  However, when Latter-day Saints are faced with the same type of situation, they seem to have taken a different route entirely in dealing with things.  The Church put out a press release entitled "The Publicity Dilemma"  which at the time of this writing is front-and-center on the Church's main website, and the majority of opinions online seem to be very negative towards HBO's actions.

I am curious what it is about the scenarios or common psychological make-ups of these two groups to cause them to react so differently to such a similar situation?  Why aren't the Mormons able to channel this potential attention into a positive force for their growth, when the Masons have been able to succesfully do so in at least a handful of cases that I'm aware of?  On the other hand, is the easy-going attitude of the Masons indicative of a general lack of respect for their own solemn ceremonies, or is this response consistent with the best and highest Masonic ideals?  Or, does the religion vs. fraternity comparison make this equivalent to comparing apples to oranges -- if so, why?

A closing plea, please be respectful to the Latter-day Saints in any comments left in relation to this post.  They are getting enough flack as it is from other sources.


Tom Accuosti said...

Just a quick thought, but in some respects, we choose to be Masons and to believe what we want about the allegories and what they teach. Most people who have grown up in a religion don't really choose - or at least, don't have the same freedom of choice; their beliefs are much more a part of their core being.

An analogy might be that Mormons have red hair or green eyes, while Masons will choose to style their hair or even color it. A documentary that may or may not have unflattering things to say about red-haired people would be felt more by those who didn't have much choice about it.

Wow, this needs work, but it's a consideration.

MP said...

The reason I don't get into arguments about the Craft is simple - I follow the Charge to the Entered Apprentice:

Neither are you to suffer your zeal for the institution to lead you into argument with those who, through ignorance, may ridicule it.

However, I also don't get into arguments with outsiders about my religion, only with those who say they are members of my religion, when they are not.

Blogging from Imperial said...

1. One is sacred, the other is Boy Scouts for grown ups (the wife's analogy, but comparisons have been made be others).
2. I disagree as to violating obligations by some participating: it is indicated that an "ex-Mormon" assisted in production (and ex-Masons have participated in exposes). I do not accept that an obligation made in the name of G-d is laid aside willy nilly (an ecclesiastical term); that an obligation of honor is so done; that a contractual obligation is so done. I still consider them binding and find such people oath breakers.
I do not excuse the producers. This is done for no laudatory purpose, but for money.

3. Choice of religion: I suspect that the conclusion is correct: that it is more a comment on "me" when someone attacks my religion, but I don't know that it is because of birth into the religion. In the LDS Church there are a very high number of converts (I REALLY don't wish to get into the discussion of whether it is the fastEST growing, but it is fast growing). Further, as seen by the blogger who allows us to respond, people do leave the LDS Church. Whether they can "leave it alone" is another matter.

Jeff said...


I for one consider the Masonic rites to be solemn and sacred. They are far more significant than "Boy Scouts for Grown-Ups," in my estimation.

That being said, the LDS Temple rites, as an integral part of that particular system of religious belief, would naturally considered by those who subscribe to them to be of an higher calibre of holiness. But, just because one is more holy, or even most holy, does not mean the other is not holy at all.

What Tom says about self-definition, and what cookslc has said about converts both ring true. I think MP hit it on the head though by pointing out the way that admonitions and charges, known well in advance, and taken to heart, can sculpt our reaction to such things. But to succeed in not becoming offended or engaging in argument is one thing, to take advantage of the publicity and "spin" it into a positive is quite another.

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